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Davis v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia

September 9, 2019


          Ellington, Justice.

         A jury found Michael Earl Davis guilty of felony murder and other crimes arising out of a home invasion and the shooting death of Nicolas Jackson II.[1] On appeal, Davis contends that the trial court erred in striking a prospective juror over his objection. We affirm for the reasons set forth below.

         Viewed in a light most favorable to the verdicts, the evidence shows the following. In August 2011, Kevell Ross asked his stepbrother, Timothy Johnson, to "get some guys together" for the purpose of burglarizing the Jackson residence in Gwinnett County. Ross believed that there was valuable jewelry and at least $1 million in cash in the house.

         Johnson contacted Darrez Chandler in September 2011, and they began to plan the crime. After an aborted attempt in December 2011, they assembled another crew and returned to the Jackson residence on February 2, 2012. On the way, they picked up "two younger guys," Reco West and Davis. According to Johnson, Davis got into the van with a gun, which he immediately began "clicking [and] getting . . . ready." When questioned by crew member Eddie Green, Davis and West acknowledged that they had been apprised of "what [was] up."

         Johnson drove to the scene in a silver van carrying Jason Dozier, Anthony Lumpkin, Green, West, and Davis. Chandler remained in a nearby parking lot in his Pontiac with instructions to stay on the phone and let the others know if the police came. When the van arrived at the Jackson residence, Dozier, Lumpkin, West, and Davis, each carrying a handgun, exited and walked to the basement door. Johnson and Green remained in the van.

         By this time, 15-year-old Nicolas Jackson and his older sister, Nikia Jackson, had returned home from school. When Lumpkin kicked the basement door open, the four men entered the house and Nicolas ran to his bedroom in the basement. Lumpkin and Dozier fired their weapons through the bedroom door. Nicolas suffered a fatal gunshot wound to his chest. The four intruders fled the Jackson home and returned to the van driven by Johnson. Dozier was carrying a laptop computer bag. Shortly after Johnson drove away, Lumpkin announced to the others that the victim was "bucking" and that he "had to shoot" him.

         When the intruders entered her home through the basement, Nikia was watching television in her room on the third floor. She heard what she thought was the sound of her brother bouncing a basketball and left her room to investigate. After walking downstairs into the living room, she looked outside and saw a silver van driving away. She called 911, and subsequently found Nicolas collapsed behind his bedroom door.

         A City of Norcross police officer stopped the van shortly after the shooting. Lumpkin and West ran away on foot, but they were taken into custody a few minutes later, as were the four men who remained in the van. Police recovered four handguns from inside or near the vehicle. A laptop computer missing from the Jackson residence was in the van. Testing showed gunshot residue on the hands of Davis, Dozier, Lumpkin, and West. Gunshot residue was not found on either Johnson or Green.

         At trial, Davis testified in his own defense. According to Davis, he got into the van because Green asked him to ride with him in order "to handle something." Davis maintained that he and Green rode together as matter of routine when Green, a drug dealer, went to collect money. Once they arrived at their destination, Davis said, he stayed in the van with Green and did not enter the house. Davis explained that he got gunshot residue on his hands when Dozier later tried to pass him a gun.

         1. Davis does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. However, as is our custom in murder cases, we have reviewed the record to determine if the evidence was legally sufficient. We conclude that the evidence presented at trial, as summarized above, was sufficient to authorize the jury to find Davis guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes of which he was convicted. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979). See also OCGA § 16-2-20 (defining party to a crime); Navarrete v. State, 283 Ga. 156, 158 (1) (656 S.E.2d 814) (2008) (a jury may infer common criminal intent from the defendant's presence, companionship, and conduct with other perpetrators before, during, and after the offenses).

         2. Davis contends that the trial court erred when it granted the State's motion to strike a prospective juror over his objection. Specifically, he contends the trial court improperly questioned the juror regarding a topic not covered in OCGA § 15-12-164 (a). He also contends that the trial court improperly excused the juror for cause based on the State's argument that she could not be fair and impartial.

         The record shows that during questioning of the venire by the trial court, Juror 36 raised her card in an affirmative response when the trial court asked whether anyone had "something going on in your personal life that would prevent you from giving your full attention to this case if selected[.]" When Davis's attorney asked the venire if anyone had an economic or familial hardship, Juror 36 again gave an affirmative response.

         During individual questioning, the prosecutor asked Juror 36 a series of questions about her family members who had been arrested and charged with a crime. The prosecutor did not ask Juror 36 about her hardship and Davis's counsel declined to question the juror. The trial court, however, asked Juror 36 to describe the nature of her hardship. Juror 36 explained that, the day before, her brother had died in Mississippi from throat cancer. She said that she believed that the funeral would occur that weekend, although she had not "talked to anyone today because [she had] been here."

         The State subsequently moved to strike Juror 36 on "two bases." First, the prosecutor pointed to the "late-described hardship" and the funeral arrangements for her brother that would take Juror 36 out of the state. Secondly, the prosecutor asked that Juror 36 be struck for cause in that she could not be a fair and impartial juror. The prosecutor argued that the juror had described her family members as having been "unfairly handled by the system," that she had maintained that she had not been treated ...

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